Orwel History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The origins of the Orwel name lie with England's ancient Anglo-Saxon culture. It comes from when the family lived in the settlement of Orwell in Cambridgeshire, in Orwell Haven in Suffolk, or in the lands of Orwell in the Scottish county of Kinross.

Regarding this latter parish, "this place derives its name, of Gaelic origin, from an estate so called on the banks of Loch Leven; and the term is supposed to be descriptive of the parish as situated in a green or fertile retreat. On the shore of Loch Leven are the remains of the old parish church, once an appendage of the monastery of Dunfermline; and near the village of Milnathort are the remains of Burleigh Castle, anciently a place of considerable importance and of great strength. " [1]

Early Origins of the Orwel family

The surname Orwel was first found in Cambridgeshire at Orwell which dates back to the Domesday Book where it was listed as Ordeuuelle. The place name literally means "spring by a pointed hill," from the Old English words ord + wella. The River Orwell in Suffolk dates back to the 11th century when it was listed as Arewan and later as Orewell in 1341. This ancient Celtic river-name means simply "stream" having derived from the Old English word "wella." [2]

Today Orwell, Cambridgeshire has a population of about 1,080 people and the Roman road still runs to Cambridge runs alongside the village. St Andrew's Church dates back to about 1150 A.D.

The name was anciently spelt Orval, from "Orval, a fief in the Vicomte of Coutances. Regnault d'Orval, about the time of the Conquest, witnessed the foundation charter of L'Essay, and gave to the Abbey his church of Orval." [3]

Another source notes that Turbert de Orduuelle was the first on record in 1066 in Cambridgeshire and later in the same shire, William de Orewell was listed there in 1201. A few years later, Alan de Orewell was found in the Pipe Rolls of 1212. [4]

Up north in Scotland, "Richard de Orewell witnessed confirmation of a charter by Walter, bishop of Glasgow to the Hospital of Soltre, 1231, and Johannes de Vrwell, one of an inquest in Aberdeen, 1342, may be John of Urwell who had a confirmation of the lands of Drum near Pluscardy, 1343." [5]

Early History of the Orwel family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Orwel research. Another 198 words (14 lines of text) covering the years 1140, 1231, 1362, 1362, 1389, 1431, 1514, 1576 and 1615 are included under the topic Early Orwel History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Orwel Spelling Variations

Before the last few hundred years, the English language had no fast system of spelling rules. For that reason, spelling variations are commonly found in early Anglo-Saxon surnames. Over the years, many variations of the name Orwel were recorded, including Orwell, Orwill, Orvell and others.

Early Notables of the Orwel family (pre 1700)

More information is included under the topic Early Orwel Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Migration of the Orwel family

To escape oppression and starvation at that time, many English families left for the "open frontiers" of the New World with all its perceived opportunities. In droves people migrated to the many British colonies, those in North America in particular, paying high rates for passages in cramped, unsafe ships. Although many of the settlers did not make the long passage alive, those who did see the shores of North America perceived great opportunities before them. Many of the families that came from England went on to make essential contributions to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States. Research into various historical records revealed some of first members of the Orwel family emigrate to North America: Catherine Orwell and her husband were banished to Jamaica in 1685.



  1. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  2. ^ Mills, A.D., Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4)
  3. ^ Cleveland, Dutchess of The Battle Abbey Roll with some Account of the Norman Lineages. London: John Murray, Abermarle Street, 1889. Print. Volume 2 of 3
  4. ^ Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  5. ^ Black, George F., The Surnames of Scotland Their Origin, Meaning and History. New York: New York Public Library, 1946. Print. (ISBN 0-87104-172-3)


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